Friday, January 23, 2004

So That's What "Restoring Hope" Means

Ernie Fletcher ran for governor of Kentucky under the slogan "Restoring Hope." I took issue to this in an earlier post, but apparently not enough people felt as I did, because Fletcher was elected and now reigns as governor, the first Republican governor Kentucky has had in decades. In my opinion, Kentucky is not a destitute place. It is not a place without hope. There are areas that are struggling, especially as tobacco comes under more frequent attack and factory jobs relocate to Mexico where they don't have to pay their workers a livable wage. But all in all, it's a place of potential. It's a place plenty of people are proud to call home. It's a place where more people are able to find hope in the smallest things than most other places in the world.

Fletcher, despite his catchy slogans and rhetoric, is, like most politicians, not living up to his word. He's spent hardly any time in office, and from what I can tell, he's doing his best to destroy hope. In a cut-throat attempt to balance the budget, he's cutting funding left and right. Certainly there are places where the budget could be cut...perhaps that job he just gave his sister-in-law, for instance. Fletcher, however, seems to think the best place for budget cuts is in education. Dear God, if there is one thing that can bring more hope to the most people, it's education. Education is the great equalizer if there ever was one. The cuts are at all levels: primary, secondary, and post-secondary. Special services to those who are unable to afford school supplies are being cut. After-school programs are being cut. Remedial programs are being cut. And to save the tens of millions of dollars that Fletcher is demanding, students are going to be affected. This is more than trimming the fat. This is taking away the Thanksgiving turkey.

In a state where education already ranks fairly poorly, why would you even consider taking money away from schools. Obviously, money isn't the sole answer. Pouring money into schools doesn't necessarily make them better. But taking money away can't help. For years, the state has been working to cure the so-called "brain drain," the flight of intelligent young people from Kentucky to other states and other universities. The goal of the state schools in Kentucky is to improve the quality of student they attract. How, I want to know, does anyone think they will be able to attract these students when they are cutting funding which allows schools to bring in high-profile professors, to perform cutting-edge research, and to keep up with the ever-changing technological advances? Oh sure, they're not cutting scholarship money. But if a student is smart enough to earn a scholarship, they're smart enough to see that a school without quality resources is not a school one wants to be at.

It's a real shame. And it's only the beginning. Four more years. Maybe by then, Fletcher can put us in a position where he can run again with the slogan "Restoring Hope" and have it actually make sense.

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Winter Magic

All week the weather has been beautiful. We've been going on walks and runs in shorts and t-shirts. We've been convinced that it's spring and that island weather is just around the corner. Boy were we fooled. Last night a tremendous storm moved in with gusty winds, rolling thunder, and pounding rain. Today it was snow. Thick wet snowflakes have been falling all day. Here, it melts as soon as it hits the concrete, but it leaves a layer on cars and plants. In outlying areas, it is apparently accumulating. Yes, it is still winter, even here in Athens.

As anyone who knows me knows, I hate winter. Cold is the worst feeling I can imagine. Walking to and from the house where I tutor was not really my idea of a good time, although there is something about cold, wintery weather that makes you feel really alive. Perhaps it's because you can feel every inch of your body as it is attacked by the cold. Anyhow, despite my dislike of winter weather, it was neat today to watch Konstantinos, the 4 year old I tutor, marvel at the snow. It's a pretty rare occurrence here, and for a four year old, it's pure magic. Every five minutes or so, he'd run to the window to make sure it was still coming down. When I took him out on the balcony for a few minutes so he could feel it, he put his hands up in the air as if praising the winter gods and then tried hard to catch a few flakes. When I showed him how to make a slushball with what had accumulated on a table, he was in heaven. It was fun. Makes you think about how magical the world really is. Made for a good day all in all. Even though it was darn cold.

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

19 Years Since I Fell Up My Grandparents' Steps

Happy 19th Birthday Gregory!!! Hope you have a good one, and hope it's not as cold as it was the day you were born.

Really, is my world that different from yours?

Please tell me that there are other people out there who are familiar with the phrase "give him/her/them down the road". In our house, Kate and I are the only ones who have ever heard it. I used it the other day when talking about my cheaters, and no one knew what the heck I meant. I asked Jeff, and he'd never heard the phrase either. Is it only a Southern thing? What is the origin of it? I tried looking for info online but without success. If you know, let me know. And if you've heard or used the phrase before, let me know that too. I'm beginning to think I might live in an alternate universe from everyone else.

Monday, January 19, 2004

Theresa For President

The Presidential Race is truly underway now. Voters in Iowa are making it known today who they want as the Democratic candidate for President. It's supposedly going to be a tight race.
While that could be interpreted as meaning that the Democrats have a number of strong candidates in the running, I think it means that the Democrats are lacking a standout candidate - a candidate who stands a snowballs chance in hell of beating Bush.

I hate writing that. God knows, I don't want Bush to be reelected. At this point, I'll vote for whoever is running against Bush. I'd really like it though if that candidate was someone I actually liked. It's like watching the World Series and cheering for the Marlins, just because you hate the Yankees more. What you really want is for the Dodgers to win, but since they're not there, you have to cheer for the Marlins just to try to prevent the Yankees from winning. A no-win situation.

The Democrats really are like the Dodgers. They do okay for a while, make you think for a moment that they really have a shot this year, and then when it comes down to the wire, they fall apart, crumble under pressure, shoot themselves in the foot. How do the Democrats think that they can put up a good fight against a President that a ridiculously high percentage of Americans support when they let ever Tom, Dick and Harry have a shot at the nomination? I don't think they understand that you aren't supposed to divide and conquer yourself.

It's a confusing race that's for sure. If you're not sure which candidate lines up best with your beliefs, you ought to check out this website:
You can take a brief survey, choosing your position on a number of important issues in the upcoming election, and the candidates will then be ranked based on how closely they line up with your beliefs. It's not a perfect indicator. Of course, not all the issues are covered, and you can't always answer the question just the way you want to. But it's a start. And once you get your results, you can click on links attached to each candidate to get a pretty good summary of where they stand on each of the points.

Here are my results:

1. Your ideal theoretical candidate. (100%)
2. Socialist Candidate (85%)
3. Dean, Gov. Howard, VT - Democrat (79%)
4. Kucinich, Rep. Dennis, OH - Democrat (78%)
5. Clark, Retired General Wesley K., AR - Democrat (73%)
6. Sharpton, Reverend Al - Democrat (73%)
7. Kerry, Senator John, MA - Democrat (63%)
8. Edwards, Senator John, NC - Democrat (63%)
9. Gephardt, Rep. Dick, MO - Democrat (61%)
10. Lieberman, Senator Joe, CT - Democrat (37%)
11. LaRouche, Lyndon H. Jr. - Democrat (36%)
12. Libertarian Candidate (25%)
13. Phillips, Howard - Constitution (9%)
14. Bush, President George W. - Republican (5%)

Interesting, huh? Bet none of you knew that I'm really a Socialist. And how the hell did Al Sharpton creep in there? He keeps ending up toward the top of the list of everyone I tell to do this program. A bit suspicious, but I don't think there's too many people who would seriously consider voting for him, so not too much of a problem.

As for what I think about my results. Well Bush definitely belongs at the bottom. And as far as issues go, I do line up most closely with Dean. But I'm still leery of voting for him. Let me tell you why. Dean rubs me the wrong way. I think he's an angry man who talks without thinking and is divisive. As much as he likes to present himself as Bush's opposite, I find that there are a lot of eery similarities. They might be worlds apart as far as where they stand on issues, but the way in which they approach things is much too similar. They attack opponents unmercifully, they make sweeping statements that they can't always support with evidence, and they generally talk out of their asses. I also think that Dean is a typical elite Northeasterner...He's not really connected to the common man and has an ungrounded superiority complex. Additionally, I'm not convinced that his experience is enough for the job. Sure, he's all for social justice and such...but isn't it easy to be so when 90% of the state you govern is white. Sure, he would have never voted for war...but isn't that easy to say when you didn't have to vote...when you didn't have to face a nation that was wounded, desperate and ready to attack. I hope he is for social justice. I hope he is against the war. I'm just not sure I'm ready to put all my faith in words that aren't necessarily backed up by actions.

I would really like to be wrong about Dean. I'd like to be able to throw my full support behind him. We line up well on the issues. But I've got that feeling, the one you just can't shake and you can't really rationally explain, but is there nonetheless, nagging at me. Fortunately, I still have some time before I have to make up my mind. Hopefully, by that time, someone will stand up and convince me that they have what it takes to be my President.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Call Me Forrest

Can I tell you how much the kids here suck? I spent all weekend grading independent novel projects, which my students have had three months to work on. The class was divided into two, and I had six kids. Four of them were reading Catcher In The Rye and two of them were reading To Kill A Mockingbird. For the project, they had to write chapter summaries, keep track of vocabulary they didn't know, write about the theme, give a brief oral presentation, and do a combination of character, plot, and creative projects. For the projects, they had to earn 60 points, but were given options totalling more than double that. They had a ton of freedom to do whatever appealed to them. They also had a ton of time. Three entire months. So what kind of projects do I get? Bad ones, yest, but no, not just bad ones. I get plagiarized ones. Four of my six kids plagiarized almost the entire project. Unabashedly plagiarized chapter summaries, theme papers, poems about the story, songs about the story, obitutaries for characters...things you wouldn't even imagine could be plagiarized. They managed to do it. And the plagiarism was blatantly obvious. They didn't even change a word. They simply found what they wanted on the web, printed it out, and claimed it as their own. In Google, I'd type in a sentence of what they wrote, and magically their whole paragraph/essay/project would pop up. There were lots of tip-offs to the fact that they were cheating, but the most obvious was the ridiculously high level of English that appeared in the writing. These kids do not speak English as their first language. They make mistakes with really basic language. Do they think I'm not going to notice that sentences such as,

"Other elements provide cohesiveness to the plot, such as Holden's dependence on telephone communication to relieve his anxiety attacks and his frequent condemnation of movies. Most important, however, is his fluctuation between depressions, which occur when people disappoint him with their insincerity, and manic states, such as his fight with Stradlater, his argument with Sally Hayes at the skating rink, and his frenzied conversation with Carl Luce at the Wicker Bar. The obvious conclusion to his escape from Pencey is burnout and complete exhaustion."

don't sound like things that they would say? Hell, I wouldn't even say that, and Rice actually awarded me a degree in English. I'm annoyed that these kids are so lazy. I'm frustrated that they wasted my whole weekend with their bullshit. And I'm really pissed that they think I'm stupid enough not to notice. I don't come off as being that dumb, do I?

And as a side note...these are the kids in my "good" class. Just try to imagine what my "bad" class is like.

Monday, January 12, 2004

Lost: Shoe Last Seen: On My Foot While Driving Down Interstate

Is there anyone out there who can explain to me how so many shoes end up alongside the interstate? No matter where I am in the US, it seems that I can always look out the window and find a stray shoe, missing both its mate and its owner. When I was at home, I was going around the loop that connects I-65 S and 265 E and counted five such shoes on that short stretch of road. And the phenomenon is not restricted to Kentucky. I checked. There were shoes on the Beltway in DC too. These stray shoes come in all styles and sizes: women’s shoes, men’s shoes, children’s shoes, sandals, tennis shoes, work boots, loafers. I’m pretty sure the shoes don’t walk away on their own, but how in the heck do they end up there, forlorn on the side of the interstate? Do people suddenly decide while they are in the car that they no longer like or need their shoes and thus hurl them out the window? Are they riding with their feet out the window when a burst of wind comes by and steals one shoe right off their foot? Do they have their ex-significant others possessions in their cars and in a fit of anger start pitching the shoes out one by one? Does one passenger fling their shoe at another passenger and the shoe ends up flying out the window? And why don’t people ever stop and get their shoes? Unless you accidentally left your shoe on the top of your car like a cup of coffee, I don’t see how you could lose a shoe while driving down the road and not notice it. This really puzzles me, so if anyone has any theories on how this happens and why there are so many mateless shoes decorating our interstates, please let me know. I’m really puzzled.

Sunday, January 04, 2004

Lazy Days

It's been a while since I posted. There's something about being at home for Christmas that makes me incredibly lazy. I really haven't done much but hang around my house with my family and Jeff, but I've enjoyed it thoroughly. I've taken the time to see many of my friends, but I haven't been out and about. A Christmas night gathering with friends, a get together at a friend's, a cousin's day dinner at Wick's, a trip with Gregory, Mark and Jeff to Mammoth Cave, a few excursions to the mall, a lunch with Joyce, a trip to the bowling alley with my brothers, a few family get togethers...that's really been the extent of my Christmas break activity. Jeff and I did have bigger plans, but a bout of strep throat has resigned us to my house. It's been fun and relaxing though, and I don't have any complaints. It's not that often that my whole family is home at the same time, so it's nice to be able to play a family game of Catch Phrase and sit around the dinner table laughing about stuff that probably no one else in the world would find funny. We're a pretty odd bunch. I can't imagine how weird we must look from the outside looking in. Sometimes it looks weird to me from the inside. But I love every last weird bit of it. It might be weird, but it's real. And we have a damn good time together. What more can you ask for?